Back to school: Education will eliminate capacity restrictions for courses that reach 80% vaccination

The term from the state of catastrophe in the country involved new guidelines in the Step by Step plan and, consequently, the updating of the protocols that have regulated various productive, social, work and academic activities, to reduce the risk of contagion by Covid-19.

And in this context, in the Ministry of Education are ready to take a leap in the de-escalation of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, hand in hand with the fall in the number of infections and the wide coverage of the immunization plan.

Thus, from October 1, together with the end of the curfew and the validity of the new Step by Step, the protocol of sanitary measures that governs schools will also be modified, with the authorization so that, anchored in the vaccination coverage, the restriction of capacity in the classrooms is eliminated.

“It has been decided to update the protocol that is applied in educational establishments, in the sense that When 80% of the students of a level have completed their vaccination schedule, they can attend classes without the obligation of a distance of one meter”, reveals the Third the Minister of Education, Raúl Figueroa.

The authority added, of course, that all other requirements should be maintained, “such as the use of a mask and permanent ventilation” of classrooms and other closed spaces.

Figueroa stated that the flexibility of this measure responds to the requirements made by different representatives of the educational communities, including the students themselves, to allow the maximum number of students to be eligible for face-to-face education.

“Together with the Ministry of Health we have been attentive to various requests from supporters and proxies that have made us see the need to look for mechanisms that give more continuity to the face-to-face educational process and, in this understanding, as new security measures are incorporated in schools, it is possible to gradually relax the requirements that alter the normal operation of the establishments ”.

In effect, the protocol indicates that at those levels in which at least 80% of the students already have a complete vaccination scheme, the schools will be authorized to receive in person and simultaneously all the students of the corresponding courses.

From the Mineduc they clarify that the courses that correspond to the same grade will be understood by level. For instance: all first-year students from any institution, who in any case should be urged to keep their distance in daily activities, as far as possible.

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To effectively control compliance with this requirement, each establishment shall keep a record of the immunization status of its students and at those levels where coverage is not completed, the physical distance of one meter must be maintained.

“It is up to each establishment to identify the levels that comply with 80% vaccination and, as they are verifying it, also adapt its internal organization, always subject to the supervision of the authorities”, details Minister Figueroa.

The balance that has been made of the return of presence in schools is cautious. That, because although 86% of the establishments have been declared as reopened, the fact is that until the beginning of the month only one in three children was attending classes at least once a week, due to the rotating systems and the limited number of students that the campuses have been admitting.

Thus, it is expected that the advance of vaccination and the measure of the Mineduc will give a new push to return to classes, especially considering that the inoculation of those under 18 years of age began in June. And currently, according to the figures of the Ministry of Health, the coverage (complete scheme) in the range of 12 to 17 years reaches 45.5%, that is, 680 thousand minors who study from sixth to fourth grade. In the case of the advance of the program -one dose- the number of inoculated increases to 1.1 million children and adolescents of the age range.

The measure does not yet run for kindergarten levels, because they are not yet the target population. That is, for courses for children under six years of age, the minimum age to be vaccinated in ChileAs they are not included in the inoculation process, they will not be able to expand their capacity beyond the current regulations.

The update of the protocol also states that the schools and nursery schools must carry out activities and face-to-face classes in all phases of the Step by Step plan and that face-to-face attendance of students is voluntary for families, but not for institutions, something that the Superintendency of Education is already supervising.

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This, especially in the understanding that there are municipalities that have not yet begun to teach face-to-face classes.

And while there are communes that still do not have all their schools with classes in the classrooms, other voices are in favor of leaving behind the limits of capacity.

One of them is Cristóbal Lira (UDI), mayor of Lo Barnechea, who points out that although the indicators are good, the prudent thing to do would be to wait a while to know the impact of the National Holidays. “If after that time the figures show that infections remain at reasonable levels, I am available to advance in a return to classes with greater capacity, but maintaining its voluntary character ”.

Meanwhile, Daniela Peñaloza (UDI), mayor of Las Condes, assures that “it is important that we advance in this matter; We have been promoters of the return to face-to-face classes and we are maximizing the capacity allowed with all the required regulations and sanitary safeguards, but the autonomy of the establishments is key so that they advance according to their realities ”. And he closes: “As a municipality we will be there to promote and accompany if there are new provisions of the health and educational authority.”

Even mayors opposed to the government, such as the former PS Gonzalo Durán, the highest authority of Independence, are favorable: “Due to the significant decrease in infections It seems reasonable to us to evaluate an increase in capacity in the school system”. The above says, because “The current capacity makes it difficult to increase and maximize the learning processes of the communities”, although, he adds, the country’s health status should continue to be monitored “and based on that make decisions.”

“The current situation makes this expansion especially relevant, in light, furthermore, of the difficulties of the telematic classes and with health data, we are going to promote a progressive and careful expansion of the capacity of our establishments ”, he closes.

The idea also finds support in some educational organizations, such as the Federation of Private Education Institutions, where 71% of its associates asked for the end of capacity restrictions, or the Coordinator of Subsidized Private Schools. There, Luis Cañas, its president, points out that they think “very positive that there is a willingness to work towards expanding the capacity allowed in educational establishments, existing in us a strong commitment to do everything required to provide safe spaces to our students ”.

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Another point to consider, he adds, “is that many parents are already returning to work in person and have no one to leave their children with or who accompanies them in the virtual classes, without neglecting, either, the desire of the children to meet again with their classmates and teachers in person ”.

The update of health protocols, for the moment, only considers school education. Higher education, where those involved are already asking for more capacity and have made it known to the authorities, will remain unchanged, for the moment.

Our proposal is that it be revalued, especially at the moment in which we are now and considering that in our case 97% of the students are fully vaccinated, therefore, it seems to us that it is time to re-analyze the gauges ”, points out Ignacio Sánchez, rector of the Catholic University, who details that with the distance meter current some of its rooms they only reach a capacity of between 25% and 30% and that, due to today’s sanitary condition, one could aim higher. “That would help a lot to continue stimulating the return of our students,” he reviews. For the above, he says, they have already made their position known to the Undersecretary of Higher Education, Juan Eduardo Vargas.

In the path of the other institutions of higher education the look is similar. Thus, from Inacap they say they hope that “the sustained advances in the control of this pandemic allow us to move towards a greater presence, increasing the attendance of students in our campuses ”. To that, they add, in the case of evening students, they intend to increase attendance, considering the elimination of the curfew.

From the Education portfolio, Figueroa takes the glove: “We have listened carefully to the request of various rectors who have asked to review capacity, but in this first stage the update is aimed mainly at schools, although We believe that as conditions improve we have to create new spaces”.

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